Monday, June 20, 2022

Deeds of the Franks

Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum (Latin: "Deeds of the Franks and the other pilgrims to Jerusalem"), also known simply as Gesta Francorum (you can figure it out), is an account of the First Crusade, from the viewpoint of an anonymous member of the group following Bohemund of Taranto who later joined Raymond of Toulouse. This account gives us many details not always available elsewhere.

As well as accounts of some specific sieges and battles, there are details of some of the more mundane trials and tribulations. One anecdote is about the arrival of the "People's Crusade" led by Peter the Hermit, who departed early with a band of common people and families:

The Emperor had ordered such a market as was in the city to be given to these people. And he said to them, "Do not cross the Strait until the chief host of the Chritians has come, for you are not so strong that you can do battle with the Turks." The Christians conducted themselves badly, inasmuch as they tore down and burned buildings of the city and carried off the lead with which the churches were constructed sold it to the Greeks. The Emperor was enraged thereat and ordered them to cross the Strait. After they bad crossed, they did not cease doing all manner of evil, burning and plundering houses and churches.

Ultimately, these pre-crusaders were destroyed by the Turks. Part of their problem was not being wealthy enough to provision themselves, and winding up in a land where they had no access to resources. Locals, knowing their great need, were quick to take economic advantage:

When the Armenians and Syrians, however, saw that our men were returning utterly empty-handed, they counselled together and went away through the mountains and places of which they had previous knowledge, making subtle inquiry and buying grain and other bodily sustenance. This they brought to the camp, in which hunger was great beyond measure, and they sold a single assload for eight perpre, which is worth one hundred and twenty solidi of denarii. There, indeed, many of our men died because they did not have the means wherewith to buy at such a dear price.

Crusading was not an easy undertaking. Strange lands, no support,y chain, constantly being attacked (or attacking); it is astounding that they managed to accomplish any of their goals.

It occurs to me that readers of this blog will have no modern point of reference for a solidi, so I think it's time to talk about money next.

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